Cambridge BID pledges to ringfence fund to help independent traders
A new fund to benefit independent businesses has been pledged by Cambridge BID if it is elected for another five years.
Some 750 Cambridge companies, including many shops, have until November 2 to vote on whether to retain the business improvement district for a second term.
Now Cambridge BID chairman Ian Sandison - the owner of Boudoir Femme boutique - has told the Cambridge Independent that a dedicated pot of money will be available for independents to spend on projects of their choosing.
Businesses within the BID zone are charged one per cent of their rateable value and this income is used to fund improvements and programs to benefit the area.
If re-elected, zone area covered by the BID is due to be extended to include the new business district at CB1, including companies such as Microsoft and Amazon.
Mr Sandison said:"Following our extensive consultation over the past year, Cambridge BID is pleased to increase its support for independents in a number of ways. We have increased the [rateable value] threshold above which businesses will pay a levy. This was £20,000 and will be £30,000 - so most independents will no longer pay a BID levy. However, they will still benefit from our projects.
"For example, almost 99 per cent of the businesses using our cost-saving initiative are independents. Over the last five years, our scheme has saved them £140,000, and this will continue.
"More than 50 independents feature at no extra charge in our shopping guide, which is available for free pick-up at over 100 locations.
"Before Cambridge BID, each street paid for their own Christmas lights and each business was asked for a contribution towards this. Cambridge BID now pays for the Christmas lights across the city streets.
"Independents will also continue to benefit from our core projects such as the Ambassador welcome service, our 3-2-1 street cleaning initiative, the seven-day rapid response cleaning service, Mystery Shop opportunities and related customer service awards.
"Larger independents who pay a BID levy will additionally save up to £400 on CAMBAC [Cambridge Businesses Against Crime] membership and, as many independents are also Visit Cambridge members, £100 on their annual VCB membership.
"On top of all this provision, we will set up a dedicated fund specifically for independents to use to fund projects of their own choosing. We will be one of only a few BIDs in the UK to do so, and have received a very positive response to this from independents during our consultation and business engagement."
Mr Sandison could not confirm how much this fund would be, pointing to the uncertainty surrounding the amount of income the BID will generate next term. This is because some businesses in the new CB1 area do not yet have a rateable value.
Vanessa Burkitt, owner of the independent Catherine Jones Jewellery, in Bridge Street, said:"Independents would welcome some guidance on the proportion of BID income that will be ringfenced and allocated for independents beyond the standard projects that the BID is seeking a mandate for."
For the BID to secure a second term, a majority of firms - in terms of both the number and rateable value - need to say yes.